By Elizabeth Toy
Jazz musicians Justo Almario and Abraham Laboriel drew in a modest, but devoted crowd of jazz enthusiasts Nov. 6 at the First Friday Jazz performance.
The duo opened the evening with a song which they dedicated to all who helped them in their lives. Almario switched between playing the flute, clarinet and saxophone, while Laboriel played the bass.
“We are doing the songs that my father wrote,” Laboriel said.
Juan José Laboriel, Abraham’s father, was an esteemed Mexican actor who also influenced many of the songs played. Abraham Laboriel’s soft voice filled the theater, leaving the audience hushed as they listened intently, until erupting into applause.
Almario and Abraham Laboriel displayed their talent with a variety of jazz styles. The connection between them was made apparent by their improvisation and musical banter.
The audience was focused on the duo as they shared stories about Abraham Laboriel’s father.
“He was always so elegant and well-dressed. I never saw him wearing jeans,” Almario said.
“At that time, nobody who was anybody wore jeans,” Laboriel said, laughing, “including me.”
The highlight of the evening was Laboriel’s story about his parents’ courtship. The audience listened intently as Laboriel retold the story of his strict maternal grandfather, who would only bless his parents’ marriage if his father would first endure three years of separation. Laboriel’s father faithfully fulfilled the request and proved his patience and true intentions and ultimately married Laboriel’s mother.
The wistful look on Laboriel’s face spoke volumes about the wonderful relationship he shared with his father and emanated warmth and openness in the theater.
Almario ended a medley of jazz standards with the sultry sounds of his sax.
Listeners were enthralled, tapping their feet, smiling and laughing at Abraham Laboriel’s and Almario’s musical jokes.
“These are world premieres,” Abraham Laboriel said as they began to play a slow and dynamic version of “Cumbia.”
The duo paid homage to Almario’s Caribbean roots in Colombia as he led the audience in a call-and-response interlude, surprising the audience with improvised beat-boxing as they clapped and sang along.
Audience members seemed impressed and enjoyed the diversity of the set.
Abraham Laboriel expressed his gratitude for the freedom music allows. “I’m going to make a controversial statement,” Abraham Laboriel said. “The greatest classical musicians are jazz musicians. They remember their improvisations and play them again and again. We improvised songs that define and infuse our personal points of view. Because of the freedom afforded to us by the jazz language, we can go in many directions and many styles.”
Almario said, “I think that jazz invites the player to be creative, to be a composer right at the moment and then it’s gone. If we play tomorrow again, it’s going to be different. That’s the beautiful thing about jazz and music. Every moment is special and very unique.”
“The imagination is limitless. You hear things that are happening that you want to play and one of the things that I, as a musician, do is study my instrument to get the best technique I can have and try to play what I imagine in my head,” he said.
First Friday Jazz Series will have their third and final performance of the season on Dec. 4 at 8 p.m.
The concert will feature ELAC Jazz band playing a variety of Christmas music, from hymns to children’s songs, to standards, funk and Latin Jazz. The concert is free to everyone. For more information, call the Music Department at (323) 265-8894.